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A Kiss Before Dying

A Kiss Before Dying

Hello, everyone.

Back in 1953, Ira Levin produced his first novel, A Kiss Before Dying.  The novel was a hit, and won Levin the Edgar award for a first novel in 1954 according to Wikipedia.

Back around 1954 or 1955 the novel was made into a movie.  Here, again from Wikipedia, is the plot of the film.

“Bud Corliss (Wagner) is an ambitious student who is wooing Dorothy Kingship (Woodward) purely for her father’s mining fortune.

“When he discovers that Dorothy is pregnant with his child, he realizes she is quite likely to be disinherited by her wealthy family. He assures Dorothy that he’ll take care of her, yet he hesitates when Dorothy insists on marrying. Bud then murders Dorothy and stages it in a way that it appears to be a suicide. He then reaches out to her sister Ellen (Leith) with the hopes of marrying her in order to ingratiate himself with her father. After a couple of months Ellen finds evidence to question the suicide verdict, and then discovers Bud knew Dorothy. Ellen struggles to avenge her sister and save her own life.”

As always, there were things in the book that were missing from the movie, like the third Kingship daughter, Miriam, and the fact that Mr. Kingship received no help from his daughter Miriam in determining that Bud had killed Dorothy and Ellen.

But this diary is not about Ira Levin or his novel.  It is about dying.

We die in so many different ways – in our sleep, like Carol did; violently, like the Challenger and Columbia astronauts; or peacefully while in a coma, like my first wife did.

During my time in Evangelicalism, I heard many horror stories from preachers and evangelists about how people die.  And many of those yarns came from the Sage of Stupidity, Billy Graham.  Being raised in the Church of the Nazarene, I heard many in that denomination.  Indeed, when I was a boy, one night during each “revival” in the constant parade of “revivals” that made up that denomination, was denoted as “Revelation Night”, in which vivid descriptions of Hell were given, and we were threatened with an eternity there if we weren’t sanctified, didn’t tithe, went to the movies, smoked, drank, and didn’t give our “heart” to “Jesus.”  That had an effect on me, because I had a horrendous fear of the Book of Revelation.

But one Easter, while I attended the Trinity United Methodist Church in my home town and sang in the choir, we sang Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.”  The text is taken from the Book of Revelation.  And what struck me was how noble and majestic the words that we sang were.  So I was moved to reread the book.  And I was struck at how beautiful and majestic the prose was – particularly in chapters 20-22.  And then I understood.  The preachers and evangelists – from Billy Graham to the least Nazarene – were so unlearned and so lacking in knowledge of Revelation that they were incapable of seeing the majestic life hereafter that God had prepared for us.  Revelation is in reality an allegory and not to be taken literally.  But that is how Graham and the rest of that crowd took it; and as a result, they almost drove me away from the Supreme God, who had manifested his love and care for me in so many ways during my life.

I have told this story before in Solus Christus, but it applies here, so I will tell it again here.  From March 30 through April 1 in 1973, I was part of a Lay Witness Mission at the Nardin Park United Methodist Church in Farmington, Michigan.  I was the pianist for the meeting, and I was asked to give my witness in both Sunday morning services.  Now in these missions, we team members never talked about Jesus or even mentioned his name.  But we talked about GOD – and we did it a lot!

After we had lunch after the second service, we needed a ride down to Metro Airport so we could fly back to Iowa.  Tank Harrison, a retired Memphis, Tennessee, cop who was the coordinator for the weekend, came to me and said that there was a guy in the church who wanted to be a part of the weekend, and would I mind if he drove us down to the airport.  I said that of course he can drive us!

On the trip down, we got to talking, and he told us how hostile he was about the Mission, because he was afraid that it would be a miniature Billy Graham crusade.  He said that he was so Billy-Grahamed in his younger days that even thinking of the man made him sick.  He said that when his wife came home and told him about the Friday-night session, he decided that he would give it a try on Saturday night.  He said that the fact that people talked about God being in their lives and the lack of talk about “Jesus” really touched his heart.  Tank and I spoke in the Sunday morning services, and he said that “listening to those two guys showed me that they had something that I wanted.”  He connected with God that morning, and God gave him an opportunity to do something that would make him a part of the weekend.  I never saw this dear guy or his wife ever again, but somehow, I believe that he was or is ready to live in paradise with the Supreme God.  And I thank God for any tiny part that I may have had in getting him into right relationship with God.

So then, how do we die?  NOT AT ALL like what Billy Graham and the Nazarene evangelists say we are supposed to – fighting and yelling and screaming because we are not ready to meet “the Lord Jesus Christ.”  No way!  I never saw anyone die like that, and I never heard of anyone screaming and yelling at their time of death like Graham and the Nazzies claimed that they did.  Instead, we die with grace because we are about to experience the wonderful love and grace of the Supreme God.  My Ginny just stopped breathing while in a coma.  My Carol just stopped breathing while she was sleeping.  According to one of my cousins, my beloved Aunt Betty just gave a big sigh and she was gone.  All three of these ladies were ready to meet their God, and they just slipped away to be with him.

Many many years ago, I heard a story – told by either Graham or another evangelist – that when Norman Vincent Peale died, he yelled and screamed and hollered that he was not ready to meet “Jesus.”  Something about that story did not ring true with me.  Sure enough, one Sunday, Robert H. Schuller, who was a disciple of Peale, mentioned his passing during a sermon on “The Hour of Power.”  Schuller said that Peale was ready to go, but that he wanted to live because he didn’t feel his work was complete.  Schuller said that he told Peale that everything was OK and that God wanted him to go and be with him.  Schuller then said that Peale finally let go of the idea that his work was not done, and that he died a serene, gentle death.  In other words, Peale’s passing was exactly opposite of what Graham or the other evangelist described.

When My Carol passed, I held in my mind the image of the Supreme God and one of his angels entering her room, telling her that it was time for her to go and be with him, and gently picking her up and carrying her to a realm that is beautiful beyond our comprehension.

I am so glad for Schuller’s description of Peale’s passing, just as I am grateful for my cousin Linda’s description of my Aunt Betty’s passing, because both of those passings were so much like the passings of my two wives.  I know now what to expect when my own time comes, and also when my mother’s time comes.  Indeed, when I was in the hospital a year and a half ago for congestive heart failure, I was in bed in the Coronary Care Unit, and one day, this thought came to me:  “So I die.  SO WHAT???”  Like my two wives and my dear aunt, I am NOT going to be yelling and screaming when the time comes.  I plan to pass the way that they did, and to embrace my transition to the realm of the Supreme God, who is so good and loving and accepting.  NO “JESUS” FOR ME!!

I don’t believe that the concept of God’s being with us, in death as well as in life, can be better stated than the way it is stated in Paul Francis Webster’s text of the song “I’ll Walk With God.”

I’ll walk with God from this day on

His helping hand, I’ll lean upon

This is my prayer, my humble plea

May the Lord be ever with me

There is no death, though eyes grow dim

There is no fear when I’m near to Him

I’ll lean on Him forever

And He’ll forsake me never

He will not fail me

As long as my faith is strong

Whatever road I may walk along

I’ll walk with God, I’ll take His hand

I’ll talk with God, He’ll understand

I’ll pray to Him, each day to Him

And He’ll hear the words that I say

His hand will guide my throne and rod

And I’ll never walk alone

While I walk with God

No, my friends.  We have no reason to die yelling and screaming, like Graham or the evangelist said.  We also do not need to fear the yarn about Dives and Lazarus that we find in the book of Luke.  The Supreme God doesn’t want that.  All he wants is for us to live for him as Webster describes it in his song.  We – myself anyway – worship a God who truly loves us and recognizes our weak humanity.

On a web page about religious addiction, I found the following:

“But Always Keep In Mind The Most Important Factor:  What we live with, we learn; and what we learn, we practice; and what we practice, we become; and what we become, has consequences.

“AND almost always, I have found, who we become has little to do with who we were meant to be.”

How true!  And the Supreme God simply wants us to strive to be what we were meant to be.  That earns for us “A Kiss Before Dying,” as well as his presence with us as we make the transition.

I close with a Tweet from someone named John Lundin:  “A Jewish idiot makes a film, a Christian idiot promotes it, Muslim idiots kill over it, and Republican idiots condemn Obama.”

I think that there is only one logical conclusion that one with a functioning brain can arrive at:  Obama is the only one who is NOT an idiot.

Now people are claiming that the anti-Islam film was not made by a Jew, but a Christian.  That is credible.  But the only thing it changes is the first part of the Tweet.  Now it is “A Christian idiot makes a film….”  But the one thing that does NOT change is my statement that Obama is the only one who is NOT an idiot.

Have a good day today.

Bill

 

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September 15, 2012 - Posted by | Miscellaneous, Religion

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